St. John Mary Vianney

In 05 Homilies by Fr. Reid on 2014/08/08 at 12:00 AM


Above the north confessional of our church is a statue of St. John Mary Vianney, one of history’s greatest confessors and the patron of parish priests.
Just outside of the village of Ars in southeastern France where he served is another statue of St. John, one that depicts a special meeting between him and a shepherd boy.
The young St. John was traveling by foot to Ars when he stopped to ask the young shepherd boy for directions. His words to the boy are memorialized on the statue: “You have shown me the way to Ars. I will show you the way to heaven.”
And perhaps more than any other parish priest in history, St. John Vianney did exactly that: he showed his people the way to Heaven, in particular through the use of the sacraments. For each of the sacraments is, in its own way, a promise of Heaven!
This is because each of the 7 sacraments of the Church is a means that our dear Lord uses to confer upon us the grace that saves us.
With this in mind, as Catholics the hope of Heaven must always be before us. Indeed, as Catholics we know that there’s no point to living this earthly life if we don’t go to Heaven at the end of it.
While all of the sacraments help us to get to Heaven, the Eucharist is particularly helpful because of the frequency with which we can receive it. As I mentioned last Sunday, the Eucharist is itself a foretaste of Heaven.
Once again this week we hear from the Bread of Life Discourse of John, chapter 6. Today Jesus tells His followers that His flesh is bread for the life of the world, and that whoever eats this bread will live forever.
Last Sunday I spoke about how our Lady helps us to receive Holy Communion worthily and with perfect integrity. As the Mother of our Lord, and therefore the Mother of the Eucharist, Mary desires all of her children to glean the great spiritual benefits contained within Holy Communion.
But the spiritual benefits of Holy Communion: union with Christ, forgiveness of sins, greater love for our Lord and one another, and personal sanctification are only available to us if we receive Holy Communion in a state of grace.
It’s also important for us to realize that if we receive Holy Communion in a state of mortal sin, not only are these spiritual benefits that help prepare us for Heaven not given to us, but we bring even greater damnation upon our souls!
Before receiving Holy Communion at Mass, priests are required to say prayers of private preparation, one of which underscores this possibility of redemption or damnation being brought upon a soul in the reception of the Eucharist.
The prayer is this: “May the receiving of your Body and Blood, Lord Jesus Christ, not bring me to judgment and condemnation, but through your loving mercy be for me protection in mind and body and a healing remedy.”
This prayer reminds us that we must be most vigilant in receiving our Lord’s body and blood in Holy Communion. Receiving Communion is an action that must never be undertaken lightly or without sufficient recollection about the state of our soul.
Quite simply, if we fear we might have some grave sin upon our soul that we’ve never confessed, we shouldn’t receive Holy Communion until we’ve gone to confession first.
But we must also consider our relationship with the Church before receiving Holy Communion, because the Eucharist is the sign of our unity with the Church.
Thus, if we do not believe that the Eucharist is truly the Body and Blood of Jesus, or if we disagree with a dogmatic teaching of the Church, we should not receive Holy Communion because we are not in communion with the Church.
Yet, while the desire for human respect can make it difficult to refrain from Holy Communion when we know we should, we should always remember that not coming forward for Communion when we are not properly prepared for it is an act of integrity!
Honestly, my brothers and sisters, although it is tempting to do so, we should never fear being judged by our fellow man if we do not go to the Communion rail.
We should fear only the judgment of God! Few things will draw down the Lord’s ire upon us at Judgment Day like unworthily receiving Holy Communion.
Moreover, we shouldn’t despair if we find that we are not properly prepared for Holy Communion. Instead, we should simply turn to our Lady.
As I mentioned last Sunday, if we struggle with our belief in the Eucharist, Mary strengthens our faith. If we have difficulty with a teaching of the Church, she enlightens our minds to the Truth. If we find ourselves falling habitually into mortal sin, she removes our despair and strengthens us in our battle against temptation.
If we entrust ourselves completely to our Lady, with whatever problems we may have, Mary works to resolve them. Like a good mother, Mary is always working to help us receive her Son worthily and with perfect integrity.
And when we do, when we receive Holy Communion in a state of grace (even if we have venial sins on our soul), and if we receive in a recollected and reverent manner, we are made a little more like Christ and made a little more ready for Heaven!
Grace floods our souls when we receive our Lord worthily, with contrition for our sins and a desire to be completely united with Him and His Church, and we taste a bit of Heaven. Indeed, we are led closer to Heaven!
Our first reading today speaks of Elijah’s 40-day journey to Mt. Horeb, which is symbolic of Heaven. He undertakes this journey strengthened by bread given to him by God. Obviously, this story is a foreshadowing of the Eucharist.
Indeed, while we all need physical sustenance to help us maintain strength when we travel, the sustenance that we need for the journey to Heaven is found in the Eucharist.
Viaticum is the term used for Holy Communion when it is administered at the very end of a person’s life as part of the Last Rites. The word means: “provisions for a journey.”
So in our Catholic tradition we see the Eucharist as food for the passage through death to eternal life, signifying that the Christian follows Christ to eternal glory to partake of the heavenly banquet.
When a priest administers viaticum to the dying, after he says: “the Body of Christ,” he immediately adds: “May the Lord Jesus Christ protect you and lead you to eternal life.”
For this is the power of the Eucharist: it has the power to get us to Heaven – but only if we receive it worthily. So brothers and sisters, as your pastor I ask that you please examine yourself well and only receive Holy Communion if you’re properly disposed, so that the benefits of the sacrament might be yours.
Every day as I distribute Holy Communion at this altar rail, I pray for the salvation of each of you. When I come to you with the Eucharist, I say a silent prayer to our Lord that you and every member of this parish be saved on the Last Day.
Through the intercession of the Mary, Mother of God and Mother of the Eucharist, may this prayer be answered for all of us. May Mary show us all the way to Heaven.
12 August 2012

© Reverend Timothy Reid

Fr. Reid is the pastor of St. Ann Catholic Church, Charlotte, NC

Homilies from June 17, 2012 onward have audio .
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